Tag Archives: fred dekker

I’m in the Gosh Darn Club, right?!

I wanted to take a second and point to something very awesome, the Halloween 2016 release from one of my favorite independent companies, 8 Bit Zombie!

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I’ve mentioned Ross and his rad clothing and merch outfit 8BZ on Branded before what with his super cool vintage-inspired lunchbox releases and his badass Masters of the Universe-style action figure Thrashor.  While there are a lot of neat independent companies putting out fun t-shirts and toys, there’s just something that feels dead-on when it comes to 8 Bit Zombie in terms of the design aesthetic and products that Ross and his cadre of artists realize and produce that speaks directly to my eight year-old brain.  Whether it’s the attention to detail (like the accurately nostalgia-ridden fonts and illustration styles), the quality of the products, or how Ross and company manage to fill in the gaps missing in vintage pop culture collecting with all new very cool stuff, I always feel like this stuff was tailor-made for me.  And like I’m want to say about the era 80s kids grew up in, this feeling is such a shared experience that I’d be willing to be that quite a few of you will feel the same when you browse through the 8 Bit Zombie catalog.  It’s like 8BZ took all of the stuff we loved as kids, put it in a blender, and made something new, yet still very nostalgic.  And I love that.

Which brings me to the brand new 2016 Halloween product drop scheduled for 2pm eastern, 11am pacific this very afternoon.  If I already felt like 8BZ was aimed at me specifically, you can only imagine how excited I was when Ross reached out and gave me an early glimpse at the stuff he had in store which for the first time is going to be centered on a single nostalgic theme.  What’s that theme?  Well, just so happens the new 8BA release is riffing off of one of my most favorite movies of all time, the 1987 Fred Dekker classic, Monster Squad!

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I mean, holy freaking crap.  For a film that was woefully under-merchandized back in the day, the new stuff 8 Bit Zombie has put together makes up for that ball being dropped in spades!  Today’s release includes a metric ton of cool stuff, but lets start with that beautiful old school plastic lunchbox you see above.  Available in two colors (red or black), this thing is literally a dream come true for me.  I can’t tell you how long I’ve dreamed of owning a Monster Squad lunchbox.  Like I’ve mentioned a million times on the site before, the film should have had a huge marketing push as it was released at an apex of kid’s pop culture branding and merchandise, but somehow it fell through the cracks and was forgotten way too easily.  This Scooby Doo-inspired design just reminds me how rad a Monster Squad animated series could have been.  Instead of a thermos, each lunchbox comes packed with a very neat pint glass that features the same beautiful artwork by the super talented Matthew Skiff…

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In addition to this bad ass lunchbox, 8 Bit Zombie is also putting out a couple of new t-shirt designs celebrating the film.  First up, there’s a riff on the original UK logo with the an updated version featuring homages to all five monsters that appear in the film featured on a black shirt…

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So now you can show off your membership in one of the coolest goddamn clubs around!  The second t-shirt dropping this afternoon is a Ratfink-inspired take on the monsters that is both an homage to the 1987 film and the 50s and 60s monster culture that originally influenced Fred Dekker to create the film…

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Again, talking about the amazing attention to detail, I freaking adore that the Monster Squad font chosen for this shirt is a throwback to the font used in the German release of the film (under the title Monster Busters)!  Don’t even get me started on the nods to Dracula’s hearse, the dynamite that absolutely can not kill the Wolfman and the fact that the Mummy is hanging off the back like in the climax of the film.  This shirt just puts a huge smile on my face…

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The coup de grace?  Well, last but certainly not least is the official Monster Squad-themed membership pack that includes a plethora of awesome goodies, way more than any of the past 8 Bit Zombie member packs…

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So what’s in this thing? Included in each pack is a pair of Rudy Halloran-style shades, one each of a Monster Squad membership patch, sticker, pin and membership card, a set of three monster patches and an extremely badass decision coin!

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Here’s a close up of the rad patches you can totally sew to your jean jacket…

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And wouldya look as this too-cool-for-words decision coin!?!

I can pretty much state unequivocally that I will be making all of my important decisions with this coin very soon.

If you’re a fan of Monster Squad, or just like really bitchin stuff I highly suggest you head on over to 8 Bit Zombie this afternoon and load up on some of these amazing goodies.  Ross is also brining back some retired Halloween-themed t-shirts from the graveyard (in particular a couple very cool Lost Boys and Return of the Living Dead shirts.)  He also still has some Return of the Living Dead-inspired Body Bag old school jointed paper Halloween decorations in the shop (I have one hanging at my house right now!)  So head on over and pick up some fun stuff.  Make sure you tell him that Branded sent ya, and if you pick up some of this stuff, please send me pictures.  That would really brighten what has been a pretty crappy start of Fall here at Branded…

The League Re-Revisited!

6883501769_16f5716f51_oLong Time readers might remember that I used to have a lot of fun participating in a weekly pop culture project called the League of Extraordinary Bloggers, or just the League as I preferred to call it.  The project was spearheaded by Brain over at CoolandCollected.com, as a way for folks to find new sites and share inspiration.  I met a bunch of cool folks through the exercise, and though I didn’t participate every week, I always had a blast when I did.  The League has come and gone a couple of times, and finally Brian is giving it another go, though this time a bit rejiggered for a more modern content sharing community.  With the rise in folks ditching traditional sites for Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook he wanted to make sure that everyone felt they could participate no mater how they interact with the pop culture community, so the Project is now been re-dubbed the Pop Culture League and has a spiffy new logo to boot…

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The first new assignment is up which is simply, Shelfie.  So to answer the call and jump back in the saddle with the folks who are participating I present my most recent obsession, my Dead Media collection of copies of the 1987 Fred Dekker flick Monster Squad on VHS from all over the world!

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This is actually not literally on a shelf, they’re currently giving me inspiration on my desk, but you get the idea.  I’ve made no secret that Monster Squad is one of my favorite films and even though there isn’t a ton of merchandise floating around for the film, there’s enough to keep a true fan busy for awhile trying to pick it all up.  Since I don’t have the wall space for the various movie posters I’ve mainly been concentrating on acquiring Squad ephemera (press kits, photos, international programs and fliers, and magazine articles), but this past year I decided to challenge myself by trying to hunt down copies of all the various releases of the film on VHS.  What I really wanted was a way to display my love for the film literally here at Branded HQ and this seemed to be a fun way to do it.  Not only do these tapes feature a lot of the alternate poster art, but it’s just really cool seeing all of these together.  So what do we have in that picture above?  Going from left to right we have…

The CNR Video, ex-rental VHS from the Netherlands…

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Next up is the Australian Filmpac ex-rental VHS in that snazzy red clamshell case…

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This one is a little worn, but I kind of like that.  I imagine it was rented a bazillion times which makes me happy.  Next, a couple of releases from the UK, an Braveworld/World Vision ex-rental and the Braveworld/World Vision mass market releases of the film on VHS…

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Note the altered Craig Nelson poster art and the alternate UK log on the ex-rental (and Horace’s rad Monster Squad shirt!)  Also, I love that red tape cover on the ex-rental as well, it reminds me of the green on that was on all of the E.T. VHS releases…

Moving right along, here are a couple of German releases.  First is the VPS Video mass market release of the VHS (where the film was re-titled Monster Busters!)

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Then here’s a German ex-rental from Videoplay-Spielfilm that has the most boring VHS tpae stickers ever…

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Now let’s jump over to Spain for a couple more releases.  Here we have the Record Pictures ex-rental VHS with some of the gaudiest cover art ever (and a re-titling of the film to Una Pandilla Alucinante), as well as an Action Time Video ex-rental release of the Beta version of the film…

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Staying in and around the area of Spain, here’s the Transvideo ex-rental release of the VHS from Portugal (re-titled Deu A Louca Nos Monstros)…

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Next up was a very hard VHS to find, and I wasn’t even sure it existed until I had it in my grubby little hands, this beautiful Italian ex-renal from Gallery Panarecord (the Italian subsidary of Worldvision) complete with the most bizarre poster for the film (re-titled Scuola Di Monstri, Monster School)…

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Next, let jump to a completely different continent with my absolute favorite VHS release of the film all the way from Japan, this Hearld Videogram ex-rental that is appropriately Halloween-y!

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The next release came out a little later, but it’s still cool all the same, it’s Danish VHS where the film was re-titled Monster Klubben.  This is also the only international paper sleeve release that I’ve found…

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Rounding out the international releases of the film that I’ve been able to source is another rare one, this time from Mexico.  I am super intrigued by this Videomax ex-rental (from Blockbuster of all places), because this is the only release of the film that has a longer running time than the standard North American release.  Most versions of this film are 93 minutes long, with a handful of the international releases edited down to 89 minutes.  But this Mexican release is 100 minutes!  I’m working on getting a new VCR set-up so that I can figure out what exactly is in those extra 7 minutes of film…

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Last, but certainly not least, is the US/Canadian release of the film by Vestron Video.  This copy came from my favorite Mom & Pop video rental store in Duluth, GA, Home Video, and it’s teh absolute gem in my collection.  I’ve personally watched this copy at least 20 times over the years, both as a rental, and then after I bought it from the store when it closed…

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So there you have it.  There are at least two more international copies of the film that I have yet to get my hands on, one from Turkey and another from South Korea.  If anyone out there has any connection that could help me get copies of those two I would be eternally grateful!

If you dug this tour of my pop culture shelfie and would like to see more posts in this vein, or if you want to join in on the fun, then here are some links to other sites participating this week as well as to Cool and Collected, who hosts the League…

Here’s the collection of Chris over at Stunt Zombie

The collection of Brother Midnight at Green Plastic Squirtgun is insane…

Linz over at Pop Rewind loves her some Terminator collectibles!

Cody at Copyright 1984 showcases a bunch of pictures of his rad collection…

And finally Brian over at Cool and Collected short a great video of his Batman shelf…

Exclusivity Vs. Fandom, or Why it Sucks to be a Collector These Days *UPDATED*

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it bears repeating, I don’t like being negative here at Branded in the 80s.  First and foremost this site is about celebrating the nostalgia of the 80s and all of the cool stuff that goes along with loving that decade.  But I’m human and just like everyone else there is some stuff that just really grinds my gears.  Typically when there’s something that really gets on my nerves I’ll force my better half to listen to me gripe about it for a few days, then I’ll focus on something positive and just get over it.  But every once in awhile I just want to get all my thoughts out on paper (so to speak) and process the negativity in a slightly more productive manner.  Can I get a decent article or editorial out of it?  Well, let’s see.

This past week one of my favorite movies of all time, the Monster Squad, was suddenly trending in the news due to the announcement that Mondo would be releasing the film’s soundtrack on vinyl this October.  To get people excited for that release the company decided to also release a vinyl single this May featuring the two pop songs from the film, Michael Sembello’s “Rock Until You Drop” and the end credits “Monster Squad Rap”.  Frankly, this is outstanding news as I’ve been dying for the soundtrack and score on vinyl for years.  La-La Land Records had just recently released the Bruce Broughton score on CD (and it sounds amazing), but I was really hoping for a nice piece of artistic vinyl, something that I could put out and display.

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So, considering this awesome news, why am I so bummed?  Well, the Mondo single release is going to be made available in four variant editions, each featuring beautiful sleeve artwork by some really swell artists and different colored vinyl pressings.  The releases include artwork by Gary Pullin, Randy Ortiz, Jason Edmiston, and the folks at Phantom City Creative (the latter two I featured during my Month of the Monster Squad a couple years ago.)  Here’s a look at the four release variants…

Dracula cover with art by Phantom City Creative

Dracula cover with art by Phantom City Creative

Wolfman cover with art by Gary Pullin

Wolfman cover with art by Gary Pullin

Frankenstein cover with art by Jason Edmiston

Frankenstein cover with art by Jason Edmiston

Gillman cover with art by Randy Ortiz

Gillman cover with art by Randy Ortiz

Alright, amazing cover at and super cool colored vinyl, so far so good.  While I’m not crazy about variants and the thought of paying for the same two songs four times, that’s totally something I’m willing to do as a huge fan of the Monster Squad.  So what’s my problem?  Well, two of these variants are going to be exclusives.  Actually technically three of these are exclusives, I just happen to live in an area where one of them will be readily available.  The Gary Pullin Wolfman variant will be exclusively available at Texas Frightmare starting this weekend and the Ortiz Gillman edition will only be available in record stores in the UK in May.  The Edmiston Frankenstein edition is going to be exclusively sold in record stores in the US in May, and the PCC Dracula version will be sold online at the Mondo site also starting in May.  So, for Monster Squad fans like me living outside of Texas in the US the Wolfman and Gillman editions are going to be a bit tricky to get our hands on.

Though record stores in the UK will be offering copies of the Gillman pressing for sale online (for instance Transmission Records and Norman Records), I’ve been hearing that they will be refusing or refunding orders coming in from the US to keep the European exclusivity intact.  This is frankly (excuse my french), frustrating as shit.  On the one hand I applaud the convictions of these record store owners for sticking to their guns, but on the other I just want to give them my money in return for a product they are selling that I really want to buy.  Similarly, with the Pullin variant, from what I understand you have to attend Texas Frightmare in order to get a copy.  So, I live roughly 1,400 miles from Dallas, TX and had pretty much zero chance of making it out to the show this weekend.  If I want to snag a copy of that disc I have to crowd-source my shopping list and hope that I’ve made a contact on one of the social media channels I frequent who might be going to the show.  I also have to hope that they don’t mind standing in line for me, hauling the record around all day, and then taking the time to ship it to me after the show.  I’ve met a bunch of super gracious folks who have done similar “muleing” for me in the past, but I hate asking this of people every time there’s some exclusive I want at a show I just can’t get to.

Exclusivity.  I’ll be honest, the whole concept just baffles and enrages me.  It’s not that I feel a sense of entitlement or that I should be able to get everything that I want.  Trust me, I learned at a very early age that not only do we not typically get what we want, but that it’s probably better for our moral character that we don’t.  If these records were simply limited editions (which they are, on top of being regionally exclusive), and they all sold out in a matter of minutes I could deal with that.  But being denied even the chance at getting them based purely on my geographic location is like kicking a wolfman in the nards when he’s down.

Hell, I’ve even been on the lucky end of this stick in the past having easy access to exclusives (like the Halloween Hot Wheels Ghostbusters Ecto-1 variants at my at-the-time local Kroger grocery stores) and I’ll be honest, it didn’t feel that great.  Being a collector I was acutely aware that there were a ton of people in other states that wanted those exclusives that didn’t have access to them.  I had to make the tough choice one year of either leaving these Hot Wheel toys on the store shelves, or buying them all up and sending them out to friends in other states for cost.  Sure, I got to feel good about making sure collectors that wanted the cars got them at an affordable price, but I also was put in the position of a scalper, keeping other local folks from being able to buy them. It just felt crummy all around.

Bottom line.  I’m a super fan of a cult film who already feels a little marginalized because there isn’t a whole of collectible merchandise available for said film.  I’m already scouring the internet for rare items to celebrate my love for the Monster Squad (from Japanese movie pamphlets to rare publicity photos from the film’s premier.)  So now, on top of that I have to basically be denied access to cool new collectibles, or choose to pay ridiculously inflated prices on eBay for those collectibles from the scalpers that will inevitably flood the market days after the release.  That is the environment that exclusivity breeds.  These records that sell for £12 at the UK shops will be bought up by bottom feeding scalpers that will turn around and sell them for upwards of £40 to £50 on eBay or the Amazon Marketplace.  The sad fact is that this is a trend that I do not see ending anytime soon.  The companies that release these exclusives are getting exactly what they want (which is selling through all of their product in a short window of time), so why would they change to a more fan-friendly model?

*UPDATE*

So, just as I figured two things happened.  First, the Wolfman Texas Frightmare variant was next to impossible to get for all the reasons stated above.  Not only was I unable to source a copy from the show by reaching out on social media, but the leftover copies were put online at Mondo and sold out in a few minutes.  I’m not saying I have a huge reach on social media mind you, but I have a decent number of contacts and I even had both the cover artist, Gary Pullin, and Andre Gower from Monster Squad retweeting my call for help to no avail.  Second, checking eBay only a week after these records started going on sale and we can already see scalpers reselling these Monster Squad releases for two to five times their suggested retail price!

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This is after just one week!  When folks start getting these records in hand I can almost guarantee that the Wolfman, Gillman, and Frankenstein variants are going to be selling for upwards of $100.  In fact…

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For a two-song, 7-inch single.  I’ve heard arguments for both sides of this exclusivity game, and both have their merits, but I just can’t believe that this is the best way to go about marketing niche products aimed at fans, to fans.  Again, I am a huge Monster Squad fan who is willing to drop the $60 plus shipping for the four variants, and yet, with cash in hand I am barred access from the get-go.  I mean, I’m looking at the list of things required to pick up a release like this (money, awareness of the releases, checking availability the moment they go on sale, connections in areas where the exclusive releases are going on sale, etc.) and I check every box.  Well, every box except the one that reads: “Willing to pay upwards of 700% the price to douchebags who want to price gouge because the item is exclusive.”  Screw that check box.  Like I said, these days it really sucks to be a collector.

What about you, where do you stand on exclusivity?  Is there something awesome about this marketing concept that I’m missing?

The stars came out for the Monster Squad Premiere…

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nThere are conflicting dates recorded for when The Monster Squad had it’s official movie premiere party, at least if you go by the dates associated with celebrity sitings at the event (I’ve seen June 3rd and August 11th, 1987 as potential dates.)  But I do know that it was held at the Hard Rock in Hollywood and there was an interesting mix of A-B list celebrities that came out for the flick.  Though normally I wouldn’t find this terribly interesting, it’s kind of neat that the production brought out actors to portray the monsters in costume for the event and I believe they ended up using the Stan Winston suits and appliances for at least the Gillman, Wolfman, and Mummy, and I think Frankenstein’s Monster as well.

So, who showed up for the event?  Michael Douglas for one…

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Also, Arnold-freaking-Schwarzenegger!

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I’m not sure but based on these two photos it looks like there were either a couple of different stand-ins for Duncan Regehr playing the part of Dracula (both of which look like Joe Flaherty’s Count Floyd from SCTV)…

Count-Floyd…it’s either that or maybe there were two premiere parties for the movie.  One of my favorite celebrity sitings at the party is none other than Kiefer Sutherland who was hot off the release of The Lost Boys.  I love the idea of him hitting up other horror flicks at the time, specifically this film…

Premiere of "Monster Squad"

“Look out David, there’s a Wolfman behind you!”

Premiere of "Monster Squad"

Now I kinda want to see a battle between the Lost Boys vampires and the monsters from the Monster Squad, but I am way too old to be writing fanfic.  I’ll just leave that one in my head…

This next set of pictures I have features Michelle Phillips from the band The Mamas & The Papas who had a run in with the Gillman, which make for some really neat photos.  The keen observer will notice Jason Hervey (EJ in the film) in the background too!

Actress and Singer Michelle Phillips Attends Movie Premiere

Next, here’s a picture of Andre Gower attending the premiere in his rad Stephen King shirt and Crew jacket…

Andre Gower In MS Wardrobe and Crew Jacket 1987

I also have this super rad clipping from the August 1987 issue of Teen Set magazine featuring Gower, Drew Barrymore, Kirk Cameron, Jason Lively (from Night of the Creeps), and director Fred Dekker!

Teen Set Clipping August 1987

Lastly, here’s another picture of Fred Dekker (with his family), which is one of the few shots of him I was able to find from the time in and around the making of The Monster Squad

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So, based on Dekker’s outfits being different in the two photos I think this points to the fact that there were at least two premiere screenings events for the flick.

Other guests that attended that night included Billy Crystal, Meatloaf, and Regis Philbn and family.  Unfortunately there are no photos of them being accosted by monsters (damn!) Star Studded indeed…

So without further to do, here’s today’s trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #8, Dracula!

8 Dracula F-B

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Monster Squad Art by Sara Turner!

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nToday is an extra special MS Fan Art day.  Last month I highlighted the work of Brian and Sara Turner of Cricket Press, and today I wanted to take a moment and share some of Sara’s rad Monster Squad related artwork.  I know Sara is as big a fan of this flick as me and I love the pieces she’s illustrated.  Please check out the Cricket Press blog and store, there is so much great artwork there!

So, a few years ago Sara and a bunch of her artist friends worked on a short-lived site for selling their daily warm up sketches and inks.  I loved this series she did of Monster Squad portraits for that project…

Just recently she revisted that concept and expanded it to feature all of the monsters and the Squad as part of a Portrait-a-Day sketch card project that she collected into a very neat mini art book!

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You can find the book at the Cricket Press etsy shop

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By far though, my absolute favorite piece of Monster Squad artwork that Sara has produced is this amazing illustration and screenprint of the MS clubhouse…

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What’s even cooler than that?  Well that a copy of this got into director Fred Dekker’s hands!

tumblr_lpn1e51H5A1qfnw74o1_500That’s pretty damn bad ass Sara!

And today’s card is…

Monster Squad Wrapper

Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each evening for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #22, BO-GUS!

22 Bogus F-B
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Monster Squad in Print, part 2…

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nEarlier in the month I shared a series of Monster Squad articles and interviews that appeared in the pages of Fangoria and Starlog magazine back in 1987, and as an addendum to that post I wanted to share a couple more vintage magazine articles that debuted after the film had already been released in the US.  As much as I love reading “lead-up” articles and interviews it next to impossible to avoid that pervasive sense of optimism and awe that comes with what basically amounts to PR and publicity (both from the perspective of the interviewer and interviewee. ” Of course <insert current film> is the best work I’ve <insert director> ever done.”  “Of course I loved ever second working with the actors, studio, marketing department, etc, etc, etc…”  It’s the nature of the game.

The best thoughts on a film come later, after it’s been digested by the audience and there is some distance to reflect and see how things fit into the bigger picture.  Unfortunately it’s rare that we get to see articles written from this perspective that aren’t 20 or 30 years or more out from the events; we hardly ever get articles written a year or two later that reflect on the success or failure, and if we do it’s usually only a postscript to the artist’s newest work.  That’s why this Starburst Magazine article from volume 10, issue 12 published in 1988 is fascinating.  Though the article is written to support the ’88 release of the film in the UK and Europe, Dekker has already felt the brunt of the US box office failure and is living in that moment of clarity with some distance and lessons learned.  It doesn’t hurt that the magazine is mainly a UK publication because that probably freed him up a bit to air some grievances…

Starburst Magazine Issue Vol 10 Issue 12 1

I also included a review there at the end that was originally published in Starburst Magazine vol. 10, issue 10 that is way more favorable than the critical reviews in the US.

I thought I’d also take a moment to share the cover article from Scary Monsters Magazine, issue 2 which was still being printed as a zine back in 1992.  There’s not a lot to the article except some straight forward clinical listing of plot and who the cast and crew are, but it’s still a fun bit of Monster Squad ephemera…

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The only other 80s era magazine that I am aware of that definitely had a Monster Squad article was issue 10 of Samhian (again, I think this was out of the UK), but I have yet to snag a copy for my collection.  Are there any other articles from the 80s that you folks are aware of?

Samhain Issue 10

Now for today’s trading card…

Monster Squad Wrapper

Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each evening for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #5, Phoebe “The Pheb” Crenshaw!

5 Phoebe Crenshaw F-B

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The Lost Pieces of The Monster Squad

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nLike most films there is some material that is in the script that just never makes to reality, or there are scenes filmed that either don’t work as well as intended or just don’t fit in the final film for one reason or another.  Sometimes this material is gold and it leaves one scratching their head as to why it was cut or went unfilmed, and sometimes it’s pretty damn obvious why the stuff hit the cutting room floor or was marked out of the shooting script with thick black Sharpie markings.  Either way, I tend to find wading through this stuff fascinating, and with The Monster Squad there is a lot of deleted scene gold to be mined, both in the script and on the screen.  Today I’m gonna take a look at some of my favorite lost pieces of the story…

First things first, have you guys ever noticed that something feels a little off about the opening of the film?  It opens with Dracula transforming and then admiring a coffin, and then, poof, he’s gonzo.  The opening text narration that fills us in on Van Helsing’s attempt to rid the world of monsters, and that he, well, blew it.  But how exactly did he blow it?  What went wrong?  What was the plan and why was Dracula nowhere to be found?  Well, in the script there’s a bit more to this sequence than in the final theatrical cut, a bit that answers these questions…

Alternate Opening Dracula Staked

HOLY CRAP that’s cool.  Seriously, Van Helsing is a badass!  But wait, why was this never shot, and what happens to Dracula after he’s staked?  One thing at a time folks.  First, believe it or not this sequence was shot and I have a picture that proves it…

Deleted Opening Dracula Staked photo

How rad is that?  Pretty damn rad if you ask me.  So, after Dracula is dispatched by Van Helsing, the body is loaded onto a wagon and towed to the castle.  The plan, as I gather from the script and context clues, is to find the (mostly) unprotected amulet (Dracula has it in his castle in the opening remember), have a virgin recite the incantation and to open a hole in Limbo that they can then chuck Dracula’s prone staked corpse into, along with any other monster that gets in their way.  Simple enough right?  Well, not so much, because you see, things didn’t go according to plan…

Deleted Scene Opening Karl

That’s right, Karl, though brave and great at slaying the ladies (of the vampire variety at least), goofs up and pulls the stake from Dracula to save his own neck, if only momentarily.  Bad move.  This scene was also filmed, and guess what?  It survived the last 27 years and is on youtube!  The scene was re-cut into the 2004 TNT TV presentation of the film…

Poor Karl.  Well, this explains Dracula’s disappearance.  Now tipped off to Van Helsing’s attack he got the fuck out of town.  Back in the castle things fall apart as they do in the film, except in the script there is an army of zombies rising from the floor of the castle, not just the two or three in the actual film, and they are too much to ward off and everyone gets sucked into the vortex of Limbo.  Cool huh?

The next deleted bit is kinda short but poignant and it involves a scene where Sean takes the majority of the silver bullets that Rudy made and before all hell breaks loose he reloads his dad’s gun with them.  Guess he was afraid the Wolfman would be the first to take his father on.  It also explains why Rudy only has one silver bullet when he faces down the Wolfman at the end of the film.  This was all part of the Rock Until You Drop montage sequence…

Deleted Scene Sean loads dads gun with silver bullets

This scene was also filmed and is on the 20th anniversary DVD and Bluray courtesy of Fred Dekker’s own archive…

deleted scene

The next lost bit was also filmed, as it’s the movie within a movie Groundhog Day Part 12, but the idea to focus on the film through Sean’s binoculars was sort of reduced in the final cut of the film.  This deletion makes perfect sense to me because dwelling on the “movie within the movie” would have greatly taken away from the emotional resonance of Sean and his dad hanging out on the roof watching the drive-in which is one of the more touching moments in the film.  But, if it were left intact you’d get a better idea of how Fred Dekker felt about modern horror at that time in the mid 80s…

Slasher Horror Movie Satire

This next segment that was cut from the film is a sequence that feels like it was ripped straight out of an episode of Scooby Doo complete with cantankerous villains wearing masks and goofy supernatural hypnotism.  Except in the Monster Squad the Scooby Doo reveal is turned on its head.  To set the stage, this occurs after the boys have made their way into the old abandoned mansion on Shadowbrook road in search of the amulet, right after the monster is taken out in the explosion but before the Wolfman Nard Kicking…

Deleted Scene Scooby Doo Moment 1

What’s this?!? A descendant of Van Helsing is in the mix?  Holy shit…

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Deleted Scene Scooby Doo Moment 2

Oh DAMN you old man ALUCARD!  Kinda glad this bit was cut, and I have no idea if it was ever filmed or not. Recently heard Andre Gower on the Awesome 80s Podcast and he confirmed that this above sequence was indeed filmed, and holy crap, Liam Neeson played the part of the disguised Dracula “Stranger/Van Helsing” descendant.  Too cool, but I wonder if anything from this sequence survives…

The last bit from the script, a segment that was filmed as well is a sweet moment at the end of the film.  When all the dust has settled and Limbo has closed back up, Rudy FINALLY get’s the girl.  There’s a bit in the Monster Squad Forever documentary with Ryan Lambert talking about this scene and how it’s a shame that it was cut because no one believes him.  Well, here it is in the script…

Deleted Scene Rudy Gets the Girl

You can see the lead up to this bit in a surviving deleted segment that was re-cut into the TV presentation that aired on TNT back in 2004…

Other than that, and the scenes that are on the 20th anniversary DVD/Blu-Ray there’s not much else worth noting that were left out.  Maybe this poop joke that Horace makes

Now, for today’s trading card…

Monster Squad Wrapper

Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each evening for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #2, Rudy Halloran!

2 Rudy Halloran F-B

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The Writing Squad, taking a look at the Script for The Monster Squad

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nOne of the pieces of my Monster Squad collection that I love the most is a copy of the script that Fred Dekker and Shane Black wrote back in 1986.  I love digging into novelizations and scripts to see what differences there were between the initial idea and the final films, and since MS never had a novelization (a crime!), the script is the best source for variation and deleted scenes.  The copy I have is dated July 30th, ’86 and is marked as the third draft…

Cover

From what I have pieced together via old Fangoria interviews, commentaries and DVD featurettes, the initial idea Dekker had was to pit the Little Rascals versus the Universal Monsters a la Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.  When he came up with the idea he was hip deep working on both Night of the Creeps and writing a script that would eventually become If Looks Could Kill, so even though he had studio interest in the concept, he took the ideas he’d written and handed them off to his college buddy Shane Black to take a stab at writing the script…

Fred Dekker

Black had been bombing out in his attempts to start his acting career, and he’s just sold a script about a phantom platoon in Vietnam, so he thought, what the hell and decided to sit down and write The Monster Squad.  As an exercise he decided to write the script in the same voice and style as Dekker who had a unique outlook on scriptwriting that is very unconventional in the industry…

Shane BlackBasically Dekker liked to address “the audience” and producers in his scripts, including a ton of asides that not only describe the tone and setting, but give back-story and also predict the way people should react to the scenes.  So reading a Dekker script is anything but dry!  Here’s some examples of how he would do that..

Example of the Script addressing the Audience 1

Example of the Script addressing the Audience 2

Example of the Script addressing the Audience 3

I love how the duo describe EJ & Derek as kids who will grow up, get ugly and sell shitty used cars, or the way they invoke the popcorn munching excitement of the finale…

Anyway, Black’s first draft of the script was apparently amazingly ambitious where he threw in everything he and Dekker would want to see in an Our Gang Vs. Monsters movie regardless of the potential budget to bring these ideas to fruition.  So for instance, in the opening of the movie when Van Helsing comes to vanquish Dracula he’s sailing in on zeppelins with an army of torch wielding villagers assaulting the castle.  I’d love to get my hands on a copy of that original draft.  The two then compared notes and then Dekker took a another pass at editing down and tightening the script and eventually the two agreed on the draft that I was able to procure.

At the end of the day what ended up in this third draft is very much what ends up on film, though there are a handful of deleted and alternate scenes that are pretty darn cool.  Today I want to focus on some of the alternate versions of scenes and I’ll come back tomorrow and share a bunch of the cool deleted segments.  So, in terms of alternate, I guess what I’m getting at is that some scenes played slightly different from script to film and were either slightly more intense or there were characters that end up slightly different from page to screen.  For instance, Eugene was envisioned as a much more timid character, one that has “no business” being in a monster club as we see in the descriptive text from this deleted scene (alright, I’m including one deleted scene, but not because it’s particularly riveting as a scene, it’s the descriptive stuff about Eugene that stuck out to me…)

Eugene is the character most different from the movie

So, as Sean alludes in the final film, the rest of the Squad ends up actually going to see Groundhog Day Part 12 at the drive-in and we get this short jokey bit with the kids in Eugene’s father’s car.  He’s described as wearing cutesy Pooh Bear PJs and is scared to death, which is not how he ultimately ends up coming across in the final film.  From the Bedroom breakdown I did we can fully see that he’s a fan of some violent comic book characters (Dreadstar, the Punisher and Wolverine), and instead of Pooh Bear he prefers Robotech PJs.  Not only that but nothing really seems to phase the kid outside of an actual monster hanging out in his closet or all hell breaking loose in the final sequence.  I love how he dead pans to Sean that the “Creature stole my Twinkie…” or that “Mummy came in my house…”  The Eugene described in the script would have tendered his resignation to the club as soon as the Mummy shuffled out of his window that night…

Another deviation from script to screen was the whole naked photo of Patrick’s sister business.  In the film, aside from Rudy ogling her through a camera set up in the clubhouse, the whole thing plays off as a perfect coincidence as Frankenstein’s Monster accidentally snaps a photo of her undressing that Rudy later has processed and they use it to eventually blackmail her into being their virginal-incantation-reader for the final showdown.  In the script there is no accident about acquiring that photo.  In fact, it’s all part of the plan…

Alternate sequence of the naked photo 1

This stuff plays way more into the Our Gang origins of the Squad as they try their damnedest to get a photo of Patrick’s sister naked…

Alternate sequence of the naked photo 2

It’s eventually Horace that snaps the picture as the rest of the gang has to literally drag a horny monster away from Patrick’s house!

There are also a lot of sequences in the script that are way more intense than they would eventually end up in the finished film, particularly during the final fight in the town square.  For instance, in the bit where Horace faces off against the Gillman, in the final film he gets trapped between the monster and the locked door of the town magazine shop (where EJ & Derek are hiding.)  Horace of course realizes he can’t run and blows the creature away.  But in the script this plays out a bit different as he uses the shotgun to first decimate the glass door of the shop in one last ditch effort to get away, and also to take his anger out on the bullies…

More Intense Scene Hoarce Final Battle

I get why this was toned down, I mean the idea of one kid holding a shotgun on another is a little crazy, but man would I have loved to see EJ pee his pants…

A lot of the sequences involving Dracula in that final fight play out more intensely too, including the face-off between him and the Monster…

More Intense Scene Frankenstein and Dracula Final Battle

This sequence not only has Dracula hit so hard that he flies up and impales himself on a large cross (instead of an iron fence spear), but it also reveals that the Monster was more mortally wounded (is that possible?) in the old house explosion.  It describes him as having his face caved in!  Ouch!  Bo-gus, indeed.

Lastly today I wanted to point to just how brutal the final fight between Sean and Dracula was scripted…

More Intense Scene Sean and Dracula Final

I mean holy crap!  That is a fight.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with a look at a bunch of deleted scenes from the script, but until then, here’s today’s trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #7, Frankenstein’s Monster!

7 Frankenstein F-B fixed

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Fangoria Interviews The Monster Squad!

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nShortly after I first saw The Monster Squad I discovered one of the magazine staples of my youth, Fangoria.  At the time, around 1987-88, there were no shops around me that carried magazine back issues and my parents weren’t keen on me ordering from the Fangoria back issue catalog, so I never got a chance to get a hold of any of the ones that had Monster Squad articles.  It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s and I managed to procure a rather large collection of the periodical that I finally got to sink my teeth into a handful of issues that covered my favorite film.  I thought it would be fun to share those articles today.  Also, this is the perfect opportunity to point to my friend Paxton’s Countdown this year as he’s spending the entire month celebrating that glorious horror magazine.  So head on over to the Cavalcade of Awesome and check out what Pax has in store.

First up today I have issue number 61 from February 1987 that features an interview with Fred Dekker on the set of Night of the Creeps.  Though the majority of the article focuses on Creeps, there are a couple of early tidbits about The Monster Squad and Dekker always makes for a great interview subject because of his no nonsense attitude and honesty.

Fangoria 61 Cover

Next up is issue number 66 from August of 1987, the month that Monster Squad hit theater screens.  This issue features another interview with Dekker and has some fun promotional and deleted scene stills.  You can also clearly see that Dekker was very unhappy with the management of Creeps by the production company and is so much happier now that he’s on the MS set and things seems to be going much better.

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The follow up issue, number 67 from September of 87 features another Squad article, though this one is a feature interview with Dekker’s co-writer on the film Shane Black.  There’s some fun insight into the writing process between the two of them in this article, and an explanation of the tone and presentation that their script takes (which is really fun to read and very unconventional.)  I also made the connection that the character of Detective Sapir is a reference to one of Black’s writing heroes Richard Sapir who co-created and wrote the Destroyer series of novels (with the character Remo Williams.)

fan67001

The last Fangoria article I have is from issue number 70 from January of 1988 and features and interview with Stan Winston’s crew of special effects artists.  The article is half about their work on Pumpkinhead, but the other half delves into their work on The Monster Squad.  Kinda fun to meet the guys behind the art…

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As a special bonus I also have an article from the September 1987 issue of Starlog (#122), which features an interview with Dracula himself, Duncan Regehr…

122 Starlog 1

Now for today’s trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each evening for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #19, The Amulet!

19 Amulet F-B

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Trivia Squad: 10 Fun Facts About The Monster Squad

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nThere are a lot of top 10 Monster Squad trivia lists online so when I was prepping for the countdown this month I initially scratched that idea from the list of topics to cover.  But the more I dug into the film and the more research I did I found some things that don’t seem to be making any of the lists.  So today I’m gonna run down 10 fun bits of trivia for the flick.

1). The Gillman and (potentially) the Frankenstein’s Monster creature suits appear as part of Mel’s (Jon Lovtiz) nerdy pop culture collection in the 2006 film The Benchwarmers.

The Benchwarmers 1

I love that the character has the Gillman propped up next to his entertainment center.  I have no clue who made the decision to include this piece, but for those who are unfamiliar with the movie, the plot centers around a bunch of adults who were heavily bullied as kids finally getting some self respect by playing little league baseball against kids.  Lovitz plays what equates to an adult version of Horace, so the idea of putting the creature in his collection is kind of genius.  Similarly, Lovitz has no friends for the most part, so when I spied this Frankenstein’s Monster for a split second I have to assume it’s again a nod to Monster Squad and the fact that the monster is fully willing to look past all outer aspects to be friends with the Squad and that seems like something Mel would embrace.

The Benchwarmers 2

Also, as an aside, Lovitz’s Mel also dresses up like Michael Knight and owns K.I.T.T. in the film.  I only bring this up because the movie is pretty terrible and the scenes with K.I.T.T. are the best in the film and now that I’ve mentioned it I never have to talk about it on Branded ever again.  Here’s the scene on youtube, do yourself a favor and watch it and skip the rest of the movie.  You’re welcome.

The Benchwarmers 3

2). When the Vampire Brides are stalking Sean, Eugene and Horace in the old creepy house their reflection can be seen in a mirror in the hallway. 

Untitled-2

Chalk this up as a goof, but considering the fact that the movie deals with monsters, and more specifically the rules surrounding their existence (like whether or not vampires can be seen in mirrors), it’s kind of a neat goof.

3). According to the script and a snippet in a Night of the Creeps article in Fangoria (issue 61) the movie takes place in the bayous of Baton Rouge, LA.

Monster Squad TidbitSo for everyone wondering why there was a decrepit antebellum mansion out in the swamp right next to suburbia (and the Warner Bros. back lot town square), there you go.

4). The film makes a fun reference to Todd Browning the director of the 1931 Dracula film.

Todd Browning Reference

It’s either that or a nod to Rico Browning the stuntman/actor inside the original Creature From the Black Lagoon suit during all the underwater segments in the ’54 film.  Or both.  Yeah, let’s go with both!  Actually, in a deleted scene that’s available on the 20th anniversary DVD & Blu-Ray featuring Emily Crenshaw sitting in bed watching the news there are a lot more Universal Monster references.  The three girls that are kidnapped and eventually turned into the Vampire brides attended St. Whale Academy (a reference to Frankenstein and Bride of director James Whale).  It also mentioned that they were taken in the bayou country south of “Dwight Frye” (a reference to the actor who portrayed Fritz the hunchback in Frankenstein.)

5). Monster Squad was heralded in a scene in writer/director Fred Dekker’s previous film Night of the Creeps.

Night of the creeps MS reference

In a segment in one of the college bathrooms about halfway through the film the phrase “Go Monster Squad” is scrawled on a wall.  Dekker already had the go-ahead to make the film while shooting Creeps and added it as a fun way to point to his next project.

Similarly, there’s a reference in Monster Squad to the film that Dekker wanted to make next, though it unfortunately didn’t come to pass.  In Eugene’s bedroom Dekker has the production design team source and hang a poster for Jonny Quest, a dream project that he wanted to tackle.

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But don’t just take my word for it…

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6). There are two homages to E.T. and at least overt reference to the 1931 Frankenstein in the film.

ET Homage

ET

In the segment when the kids are making friends with the Monster there’s a bit where they’re walking in almost silhouette away from the camera with the orange sun setting.  This is paying homage to a similar shot in the Trick or Treating scene in E.T.

ET Homage 2

ET 2

In both films the young girls dress up the fantastical friends in lady’s clothes.

Frankenstein Homage

Frankenstein Homage 2

The Frankenstein reference is more overt as Phoebe is a modern interpretation of Maria from the 1931 James Whale film, though Phoebe spins the original on it’s head in terms of friend-making outcomes…

7). The Gillman has an image of the original ’54 Creature from the Black Lagoon sculpted into the suit by artist Steve Wang.

creature has the original created sculpted mini size on his neck

Though it’s not clearly visible in the film, the homage/artistic flourish that Wang etched into the Gillman’s suit is located on one of the scales on the creature’s neck.  Wang is on record saying that the original Creature is his favorite piece of monster special effects art, so it’s not surprising that he would give a tip of the hat to that incarnation in his own work.  I pinpointed my guess as to which exact scale in the image above, the one in blue.

8). Dracula’s Hearse has teeth molded onto the grill!

Teeth in the Grill

This was a little but  fun flourish that I didn’t take notice of until this past year, but I freaking love that detail…

9). In the script and in deleted scenes in the movie it’s evident that Emily Crenshaw is going to leave her husband Del. 

Mom leaving the Dad

Though they are fighting throughout the film and are evidently seeing a marriage counselor, it’s not really addressed just to what extent the mother is unhappy.  This script was much more clear though, and in  a number of deleted segments you can see the evidence, as well as in the scene where Del is running through the house at the end looking for Sean and Phoebe.  You can clearly see Emily has packed her bags and planing the split.

Deleted segment where Emily wishes there was more sex in the house…

Mom leaving the Dad 1

Mom leaving the Dad 2

10). In the script there is a small joke where the creature darts his tongue out and eats a fly. A special animatronic head was built by Stan Winston Studio to accommodate this shot.

The creature was going to eat a lot more... 2

The creature was going to eat a lot more...

So, how about a couple more bonus bits of trivia?  The first is one that I think most folks already know?

11). When Rudy flashes the picture of Patrick’s Sister as blackmail, the photo he holds up is actually of  actress Lisa Fuller, fully dressed and standing by a pool.

The Real Picture

I fixed that for everyone…

The Real Picture Fixed

You’re welcome.

And finally, with the addition of the original deleted opening sequence Dracula is staked or impaled three times during the film!  Once by Van Helsing, once while landing on an iron fence spike after being bitch-slapped by Frankenstein’s Monster, and once by Sean.  That might be a record number of times that a vampire was staked in a single film :p

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Now it’s trading card time!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each evening for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #25, Sculpting the Gillman!

25 Sculpting the Creature F-B

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